Meatless Monday: Southwestern-Style Quinoa

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I have to confess that I have never been much of a quinoa fan, even though I know it is a superfood high in fiber, iron and protein. Unadorned quinoa tastes too earthy to me, but, out of necessity, I’ve finally created a quinoa dish that I not only tolerate, but love!

Home after traveling for several days, we were longing for a health home-cooked meal. In advance of our travels, we hadn’t done any grocery shopping and were completely out of all of our usual staple grains. The one thing in my cabinet, which had been there a while being ignored, was a bag of Alter Eco Organic Royal Rainbow Quinoa, which my husband had purchased because it looked interesting. I also had a bag of organic corn in the freezer, which inspired me to try making a southwestern-style dish. The end-result was so good that I wanted to share it with you!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups filtered water (plus water to soak the quinoa before cooking)
  • 1 vegetable bouillion cube
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 bag of frozen organic corn

Soak the quinoa in water for ten minutes, then drain thoroughly. Place in a saucepan with 2 cups of filtered water and the bouillion cube. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes.

While the quinoa is cooking, saute the onion in the olive oil until translucent, then add the spices and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the corn and cook for another 5 minutes and remove from heat.

When the quinoa is finished cooking, remove from heat, add the corn mixture and almonds and stir until well-blended.

Serve with a salad, for a simple well-balanced meal! This dish can be enjoyed hot or cold.

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How to Make Vegan Welsh Rarebit (aka Rabbit)

rarebitA while back I posted a recipe for vegan mac and cheese. And although it was the best recipe I had produced at the time, I have to admit that I haven’t been quite satisfied with it.

Recently, I had a craving for vegan nachos with cheese sauce, so I did some searching on and found this excellent recipe on Food.com. This one has a higher proportion of cashews, which results is a rich, creamy texture.

Ingredients*

  • 4 cups of filtered water
  • 2 cups raw cashews (roasted won’t give you the nice creamy texture)
  • Another 2 ½ cups of filtered water
  • Strained juice of 1 lemons
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (regular works, too, but smoked provides a deeper flavor)
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • ½ cup of beer (a dark beer, like porter, is preferred)
  • 4 slices of whole grain bread, toasted

Directions

1. Soak the cashews in filtered water overnight.

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2. Drain the water from the cashews and place them in a blender with all of the ingredients, except for the beer and bread, and blend until smooth.

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3. Pour the blended mixture into a saucepan, add the beer and heat for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently

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4. Spread over the toasted bread and serve with a salad for a simple, delicious meal!

To make nacho cheese sauce, eliminate the beer, replace the mustard powder with garlic powder and add 1 tablespoon of chili powder.

*Most Welsh Rarebit recipes call for Worcestershire Sauce, but this contains anchovies. If you are not a strict vegan, this adds a nice depth to the flavor.

airbnb enables a new class of tourism: the anti-tourist!

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The following post is by Katie Peige, Herban Lifestyle’s Sustainability Associate.

With each New Year comes a list of goals and resolutions that we hope to cross off our annual bucket list. My list and vision board for 2013 definitely includes travel. If yours does too, Airbnb is a great option to try if you are looking for a cool place to stay with a limited amount of funds, thanks to the joys of the sharing economy and our interconnected online social world.

Never heard of Airbnb? Don’t feel too bad I hadn’t either before last year (when they were named Inc Magazine’s runner up for Company of the Year 2012). Having lived as a poor student traveling around Europe and various corners of the United States, I considered myself to be quite the green and savvy traveler with a shoe string budget reputation. The number one way I managed to get around without breaking the bank was relying on my vast network of friends who have offered me their spare beds, couches, futons, and floors, so I could avoid the expensive and not-as-much-fun experience of staying at a hotel.

While planning a trip to San Diego for a conference, my plan to stay with a friend fell through. Since my California network was non-existent, I needed to consider other options. After all, I needed to make my journey to the Sustainable Brands Conference in a financially sustainable way. So I looked into three options: the first was to find a roomshare with another conference attendee; the second was to finally use my membership with couchsurfing.com; and the final was a newly suggested option of Airbnb.

I had seen Airbnb mentioned in the Sustainable Brands program – Christopher Lukezic, their Director of Communications, was one of the speakers – and decided to check it out. Airbnb is short form for “Air Bed and Breakfast” and allows people with a spare room to put that room up for rent on a per diem basis. Some people rent out their entire flat, airstream, tree house, train, and so on. In Christopher’s presentation he mentioned how one couple rented out their now grown children’s tree house and were able to retire early and use Airbnb to pay their mortgage. So if you have some spare space, you might want to give hosting a try.

cool spaces

Airbnb’s website and app are both very cool and user friendly. You need to create a profile so that other users can rate you as a guest or host. This allows hosts and travelers to get a sense of whether they will be a good fit. You can connect your account to your Facebook account, which allows you to see if you know people who know a person you are considering hosting or visiting. My favorite part of the website is that it gives you a map of the different listings for each city. This feature is one of the big reasons why I choose Airbnb over other sites.

For my San Diego trip, I was able to use Airbnb to find an apartment that was just one mile from the conference. It was a perfect scenario. My host was actually traveling in Europe, and her friend Ale was on sabbatical and was traveling for a year before her return back to Italy. Unfortunately I did not have a lot of time to spend with Ale, since I was at the conference starting really early each  morning to rather late each night. But when I did see her, we had great conversations and I learned a little Italian. I had my own room, closet space, and was provided towels to shower. I got all of this for half of the price of sharing a room at the resort where the conference was held. Very sweet deal!

Airbnb’s app and website are really fun to poke around even if you are not planning to travel anytime soon. They have a “popular” section that lists the coolest listings and you feel like you have traveled around the world after spending a few minutes browsing. Check it out for yourself and have fun traveling or hosting and contributing to the sharing economy. It might make 2013 one of your most memorable years.

The Benefits of a BYOB (Bring Your Own Bag) Habit

bagmonsterThe following post is by Katie Peige, Herban Lifestyle’s Sustainability Associate.

You are sitting in a park enjoying a lovely picnic. You are taking in the peaceful moment: the birds are chirping, children are playing on the nearby swings, a butterfly flitters by, and then you look up and your stomach lurches. It’s the lurch you feel when you see a plastic bag stuck amongst the highest branches of the maple you are sitting under. You start thinking about the birds that could get tangled in the plastic, the turtle that thinks he is about to chow down on a jelly fish, and your mind starts flashing images you have seen of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and all you have your mind set on is how long it would take for that bag to eventually break down and where can you find the nearest ladder.

Plastic bag pollution is a serious problem the world over. It is estimated that 1 million plastic bags are used every minute of every day worldwide. Plastics in the ocean is a terrifying situation as today there are more pieces of ocean plastic than plankton (you know the little guys who are responsible for our every other breath). Of the 100 million tons of plastic that are manufactured each year, ten percent finds its way to the ocean, and only 20 percent by means of ships and platforms. That means that 80 percent of the plastic in the ocean comes from the land. With all of this plastic floating in the ocean that does not go away but rather break up into smaller bits (46,000 pieces per every square mile according to the United Nations Environment Program), it is no wonder that a million sea birds and 100,000 sea mammals and turtles die each year from plastic bags and other plastic pollution.

Some quick facts about plastic bags and the environment

Some quick facts about plastic bags and the environment

So what can you do and what should be done? The first thing you should do is bring your own bag to the store. It is estimated that one reusable bag can replace 1,000 plastic bags in the reusable bag’s lifetime. Keep a small foldable bag with you in your purse or on a keychain, so if you are out and about and decide to do some impromptu shopping, you are prepared. ChicoBags makes some really cute ones that fold up super small. Next, keep a stack of bags in the trunk of your car so you have them with you when you head to the grocery store or any other store where you would need more than one bag.  For the non-car owners keeping a stack by the door is a helpful reminder as well. For the ladies, you can get a little drastic and stuff them in your bra, however, I am not exactly sure what the most lady like method of removing the bags would be when you actually need them. Once you have the BYOB habit down, start bugging your friends to remind them as well, you have a vast, powerful network, use it to help the planet out (and while you are at it, get your friends to start a campaign to ban plastic bags in your city!).

If you have a ton of plastic bags under your sink, try to reuse them as trash liners or packaging material. And if you have a desire to get creative, check out these crafts that all use plastic bags! You can also take them to most grocery stores and Staples to recycle them.

Just remember, for every bag you refuse to take you are taking a direct action to help stop the plastic pollution problem and subsequently saving resources, animal lives, and keeping those plastic bags out of our trees and waterways!

Editor’s Note: For more information on the issue of plastic bags, presented in a fun, entertaining way, we highly recommend Bag It!, the movie.

A globe made of plastic bags, as seen at the 2012 Smithsonian Folklife Festival

A globe made of plastic bags, as seen at the 2012 Smithsonian Folklife Festival